Monday, December 12, 2011

Gears of War 3 review

So I've finished the campaign on Gears of War 3 and I wanted to think about my impression of the game before I posted a review. You may agree or disagree with some of what I have to say and that's okay . . . just say what you have to say in the comments section.

1) The boys are back . . . but their neutered
This games was cowritten by Karen Traviss who wrote a bunch of Star Wars books and is writing the Gears books. While I've liked her books there just seems to be something off with the characters in this game. Their banter could be a little annoying sometimes in the earlier game but it's what made those characters stand out and have their own personalities. In this game it feels like everyone is the same. The constant banter between Cole and Baird is gone and everyone walks around like a mute. Part of what made some of the characters hilarious was their interaction with Carmine (and his responses). There was a whole promotional campaign to "save Carmine" or "kill Carmine" a year or so ago but the Carmine brother in this game seems nonexistent. So what was the point of those avatar t-shirts except for making money? There was so much potential for the characters in this game, given the history of the planet, but I feel like they've all been neutered.

2) Hello, not everyone is going to read the books
I've only read the first Gears of War book although I own the next 3 or 4. When the game started I had no clue what was going on in the story or why things were the way they were at that time. What made it worse was there was no backstory in the game. If you wanted to know what was going on you had to read the books. There were some things that made sense because I have read the first book, but other things are still lost on me. Since I've told my friends NOT to spoil the books for me they can't tell me anything. So if you haven't read any of the books you're basically going to be lost for a lot of what is going on and the why behind it all.

3) A major case of deja vu
While playing this game I couldn't help but get the feeling that I was actually playing other games. The doors and wires the squad had to walk through to get from one area to another was like the elevator rides in Mass Effect. It's a way to load the next area without a blank load screen. Towards the end the designed gave up that pretense and had their own elevator rides/load screens. And the "farmers" (I think that's what they're called) that all of a sudden came chasing after you like zombies from Left 3 Dead? Been there. Done that. There was even a scene that felt exactly like one from that game. It involved not disturbing ash people just like you shouldn't disturb cars to set off their alarms in L4D. And then there wasn't much story between action scenes . . . kind of like a Call of Duty game. That wasn't like the first couple of games. Who could ever forget the "slow" moment of Kai's death? Or when Dom finds Maria? Or either Carmine's deaths? Gears wasn't a run-and-gun type game. It had story. It had heart. But not in this one.

4) Foreshadowing should be more than 2 minutes before things happen
When you want to foreshadow something you should really lay hints out long before the event happens. Having Dom give up his dog tags before the "event" happens in the next scene is NOT foreshadowing. It's an "oops we forgot to set this pivotal moment up" decision. When Dom is looking for Maria in the second game you see and hear him talking about that long before he finds her. And when you get to the part of the story where he's looking for her he doesn't find her in the first place he looks. Once you have a big pivotal scene like that you have the after effects. And based on previous games the after effects should have had a longer deeper feeling to it than "oh well, let's move one". Whatever passion for life Marcus had been keeping a tight hold on for years should have at least bubbled to the surface a little bit afterwards. But Marcus was just the same afterwards as he was beforehand. While I liked him in the first two games, I though he came across as a emotionless bastard in this game. When they neutered the characters they stripped all emotion from them as well.

5) combat de-evolved
One area of combat that annoyed the heck out of me was the corpser scene. All the other "boss" battles and such in all the other games was about finding a way to kill all the enemies present. There was no "do this" then "do that" and then "boss dies". Going through the 5 stages with the corpser (and to some extent with the final boss battle) felt like battling a boss in an RPG game that evolves as the battle progresses. The first incarnation is a fire demon (attack with water). The next incarnation is a dark demon (attack with light). The next physical defenses are down (attack with your weapon). It's repetitive and monotonous. And boring. There had to be a better way to make that battle more interesting. There's a ceiling so no Hammer of Dawn. Why not have the guys try to position the corpser under a section of roof and blast a pillar down, hopefully not on their heads? There was potential there but I think it failed miserably in the execution.

6) weapon change outs
I could buy that the saw-off shotgun and retro lancer were older guns that Gears retired and moved to something a little more advanced. But where does the One Shot fit in in all that? And what about the Hammer of Dawn? I can't tell you how many battles I faced where the Lancer (or retro) was all I needed to get through an area. In the other games there were several places that only a certain weapon would see you through to the next area. In this game it didn't really matter what you had equipped. So where's the challenge in that? I want a little challenge to my murderous rampages. Is there a guy on a far tower I need to kill that my guns won't reach? Give me a special gun in order to get him. Unfortunately there were no special guns because there were no guys on far ledges that you couldn't reach. Everything was up close and personal so a Lancer and and shotgun was all you needed.

I'm sure I could tell you more things that bugged me about this game, but I want to hear what you have to say. (Just don't get me started on Marcus's hair.) I'll give my review of the multiplayer portion later. Overall I liked the game. I just wished I knew more about what was going on and that the feel of the previous two games was included in this game. The campaign was short but that's a typically Gears game for you. I didn't find it all that challenging to play but I'm glad I played it. I'm now working on the hardcore and insane play throughs. If you want to join me jump on it.

Overall score (out of 10): 8
Combat: 7
Story: 5
Characters: 7

Poll Results - How do you display your Xbox 360?

I'm sorry for the delay but sometimes life creeps up on you, grabs you by the scruff of the neck and just won't let go. I'm better now. Thank you! Here's the (belated) results of my last poll:

How do you display your Xbox 360?

Horizontal = 3 votes
Vertical = 0 votes
I don't have an Xbox 360 = 0 votes

I've displayed mine horizontal almost all of the time. There was an experimental period when I tried it vertical but it just didn't feel right. I wonder if Zenra's comment about it being a matter of age might have something to do with it. Or maybe it's all that advertising I see. They always have it vertical. It seems that younger people like it vertical and they're more susceptible to advertising than us jaded old folks.

I did have a sales clerk at Gamestop (a young one) tell me when I was buying a new Xbox 360 a while ago tell me to use it horizontal because standing it up on end was what was causing all the Red Rings of Death. Really? I got the RRoD on my first machine and I never stood it up. I guess that's the intelligence of today's youth for you.

The Wii on the other hand just doesn't look right when used horizontally. I don't know why, it just doesn't seem right that way. The PS2 could be done both ways and you could even swing the logo around on the front to match the way you had it set up. Maybe it's my history with the SNES and PS but I never considered playing the PS@ up on end either. It just never felt right. And there was not RRoD to worry about on that machine.

I guess it doesn't really matter how you display it, but how you play the games for the Xbox 360. As long as it works for you, you can be a backwards-stand-on-it's-end type of gamer . . . just remember to let me win.

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Poll - How do you display your Xbox 360?

So how do you like it? Horizontal? Vertical?

How do you display your Xbox 360?

I don't have an Xbox 360

All right, now get your head out of the gutter and vote in my poll. sheesh.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Roll Results - Has Gears of War 3 been worth the wait?

So here's the results from my latest poll:

Has Gears of War 3 been worth the wait?

Absolutely YES! = 2 votes
I'm still thinking about it = 2 votes
I'm left disappointed = 0 votes
Hell no! = 2 votes

It actually took me a while to cast my own vote. At the time it came out I had had it with my friends. I couldn't listen to any more whining or bitching. About games or other gamers. I wanted the game but I didn't want to play it with my friends. I would have rather played with no headset and a bunch of strangers. But the call of my friends was too much and for the first week or so of the game's release I played with friends. Only every other night. One night to play. One night to take a break.

When I came to vote in my poll I knew it would be for one of two options, absolutely....or I'm still thinking. When I thought of the online play with friends I started to drift to the other two options. But then I had to stop myself and think. Am I rating playing with my friends or am I rating the game itself?

I voted based on the game itself (minus all the whining friends). And that vote was "Absolutely YES!". Even though I got off to a terrible start playing online that was more to do with getting irritated with players than with the mechanics of the game. If I looked only at the game, I was having fun. I guess that's why playing with strangers and no headset was nice.

I've played more often with my friends and for the most part it's been like how we use to play. Helping each other out. Calling out enemy positions. And working together as a team. That makes me feel so much better. We even worked together over several nights to beat Beast Mode on insane. It took planning and teamwork and we enjoyed every minute of it. (Except for two times when we got to the final round, had one guy left but ran out of time.) I now look forward to more matches with friends in this game.

As to those that voted "Hell no!" I want answers. Tell me why you don't like it.

I already heard from Evil Ric about it and he said it's just more of the same. When I pointed out that Call of Duty games are just more of the same too he said only Gears of War gets his blood pressure up. I actually thinks that's a compliment to the game. You have more invested with Gears so that little things make you angry. With Call of Duty it's ho hum.

No game is going to be perfect or appeal to everyone the same way. But, for me, there is something special about Gears of War. And now if I could just get through the campaign without dying all the time I might like the game even more (if that's possible). Of course I think I bumped up the difficulty thinking I was a Gears veteran so I can handle anything. Although it has been frustrating I'm glad that the third game in the series is still a tough fight and not a cake walk.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Poll - Has Gears of War 3 been worth the wait?


Has Gears of War 3 been worth the wait?

Absolutely YES!
I'm still thinking about it
I'm left disappointed
Hell no!

You have until October 1st to vote, so please do so!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When gamers get personal

There's no shortage of trash talking when you're playing a video game online. The gamer doesn't matter. The game doesn't matter. But I have noticed an interesting trend. And it has nothing to do with "yor momma".

I have friends that prefer one game over another. Some like Gears of War, other like Call of Duty. Some like both, but I think everyone has a preference of which one they would rather play. But sometimes you just want to play with friends no matter what game they're playing. So CoD fans will play GoW and vice versa.

Every now and then the trash talking against one game gets out of control. Everybody thinks their favorite game is much better than the other one. Gears has wall bouncers, glitchers, lag and what not. Call of Duty has care package glitches, host quitting, camping, lag and the like. Neither game is perfect but try telling that to my group of friends.

But here's the rub. With Gears the complaining gets personal.

Not with other gamers as much as with Cliff Bleszinski. Who's Cliffy B. you ask? He's the designer of Gears of War. It's his baby and he's not shy about that. If something funky goes wrong in the game my friends will gladly tell you how they feel about Cliffy B. If anything goes wrong it's his faulty . . . personally. If Cliffy B. took any of their comments seriously I don't think he would leave his house for fear of being butt rapped by a group of irate gamers.

But Call of Duty is no different to the whining and bitchfest that online gaming has become. You will still hear complaints from gamers about people camping around corners, lag switching (although in order for this to actually happen it will effect the whole team and not just one person) and spawn killing. But what you don't hear is gamers directing their complaints against one person at the companies who developed the games. Why is that?

Maybe it's because there are two different development houses that do the Call of Duty games. Infinity Ward and Treyarch. Gamers might know those company names and which ones developed which games in the series, but there really isn't anyone one person who stands out as the "face of Infinity Ward" or the "face of Treyarch". They're a no one big faceless company so complaining and bitching is done in the the general sense.

With Gears it's specific and direct. One man made Gears of War his personal vision of how a video game should be. And my friends are taking that literally. He's personally responsible for the games so he personally gets all the complaints directed at him (even if he never hears them).

It seems gamers take their games personally . . . whether they design them or play them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Poll Resuls - Do you like secret achievements?

Why don't you come in really close and I'll tell you a secret . . .


Okay, so maybe that wasn't a secret. But if you want me to tell you mine, you've got to tell me yours first.

But onto the poll results. Here they are:

Do you like secret achievements in games?

Yes, I love the mystery of 'em = 0 votes
No, I hate not knowing what to play for = 4 votes
You know, I just don't really care = o votes
For me, nothing stays a secret for long = 1 vote

Well, I voted with the majority. I think orphan summed it up nicely in the comments when I released the poll. If you don't want to look that up he basically said that secret achievements for the story are okay. If you play through everything you'll eventually unlocked them and they won't be a secret anymore. I really like this idea.

As a developer wouldn't you want the people who play your games to discover the story as it unfolds as they play it? If you put in an achievement that states something like "sacrifice your dog to save your life" or "you just married your handsome prince" don't you think, that moment in the story would become less emotionally powerful if the gamer had already seen that "spoiler" on their achievement list?

I have friends who look at the list of achievements as soon as they put the game in, even before they've played any of it. They're looking for information to how the story is going to play out. Are most of the achievement towards the beginning? Towards the end? Are they story based or multiplayer based? If they're looking to get all achievements in a game it helps to know how you might want to play it.

One things Xbox Live does right (IMHO) is that if one of your friends have unlocked a secret achievement it will still show up as secret when you try to look at their achievement list. They earned that secret achievement, now it's time for you to earn it so you can know what it is.

But that's where the problem is. Not all developers put in story based secret achievements. They have secret achievements for doing very specific things that might not fall into the "regular" way someone would play the game. There might be a specific task that you need to perform in a specific area that is not related to elements of the story. If you don't know what those things are you're never going to get that achievement . . . unless you look it up and specifically play the game to do those things. While I can't speak for the developers about that, I don't think that's what they had in mind on how they wanted you to play the game.

And what if you wanted to know what those secret achievements were? You can't find out on Xbox Live so you've got to go to a computer and look them up. There are tons of sights that will tell you what all the achievements are and what you need to do to get them. But if you're playing the game and concentrating on doing a specific thing in a specific area are you really paying any attention to what's actually going on in the story? Is that how we should be playing games?

Now, I've played games trying to do specific things. Like finding all the Intel or cog tags or journals or what-nots that developers like to hide in their games. But those achievements aren't usually secret. The developers WANT you to explore their world and find things. By seeing an achievement that says "find all 50 purple bottle caps" then you know to be on the look out for them as you play. And you'll spend time exploring every nook and cranny in an area to make sure you haven't missed one. If the developers made that achievement secret and your character picked up a purple bottle cap in the game would you even know that it meant something? Probably not.

To sum things up, in general, I don't like secret achievements. But if used wisely, and to prevent gamers from finding spoilers in games, I think they can be very beneficial to playing games. I just don't like it when they make them so secret and selective about what you need to do that you spend almost as much time looking them up as you do playing the game. Because once you know you have to "defeat the Gorgon for killing the love of your life" are you really going to want to play the game when you know what happens?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Poll - Do you want to know a secret?

Psst. Do you want to know a secret? I do. But it's a secret, so I don't know it. Except that I can know it, if I want to take the effort to find out what it is.

Oh, don't look at me like that. I haven't lost my mind. This is my gaming blog so obviously I'm talking about secret achievements. Duh. So here's my latest poll:

Do you like secret achievements in games?

Yes, I love the mystery of 'em
No, I hate not knowing what to play for
You know, I just don't really care
For me, nothing stays a secret for long

Monday, July 18, 2011

Almost there

At the beginning of June I set myself a little mini goal. I wanted to break the 20,000 gamer score barrier by Labor day. I had just under 2,000 points to go in order to hit that mark. It would be doable but I'd have to put in the effort.

My score currently stand sat 19,902. So close, and yet so far. It helped that I finally picked up some multiplayer achievements in Gears of War. I got points for hosting 50 matches, 100 chainsaw kills, and 100 revives. I also picked up a few achievements in Mass Effect and one for starting Lego Star Wars III and finishing the story in Puzzle Quest 2.

On the other hand I can't seem to get any more achievements in Clash of Heroes. I really loved that game and I worked hard to max out all my allies and specialists and finally got that achievement. But since then I can't seem to progress in the story. I'm on the third character (the ghost which I can't remember her name) and I got up to level 3 but now I can't win a battle. Everybody I run into is at least a level 5 and my troops just don't seem to have the defense to stand up to the enemy's attack. I think I've played that game for over an hour without progressing or winning anything. It's rather frustrating so I've stopped playing. I don't think I'll be getting any more achievements out of that game before Labor Day.

Since I've always had one arcade game that I obsess about I'm trying to find a replacement to fill my time. Everything I've tried to play hasn't interested me. While I know I can pick up some achievements in larger disk games, I like having a smaller arcade game to play when I want something quick and not so intense.

I've been working on my pistol and Boomshot kills in Gears so that might get me some points towards my goal, but I don't think I'll get those achievements before Labor Day. I might get them before Gears of War 3 comes out but that's later on in the month so I have more time.

I should also be able to pick up another achievement or two with Mass Effect. I want to finish that game before Gears 3 comes out because I won't be playing much else when I have that game in my hands. I'm pretty close to the end of the game but I don't know if the achievements I might get will be enough to push me over the 20k mark.

So I have a month and a half to get 98 points to reach my goal. You would think that because that number is only 2 digits it would seem absolutely attainable, but it doesn't. It might only be 2 digits but it feels so far away. But I can't wait to break that 20k barrier. I'm really tired of looking at a number one at the beginning of my gamer score. My gamer score was higher than Genghis's when I started his last tour of duty. Now he's up around 60,000 or so and I haven't even broken 20,000. And I also thought I played more video games than Sneaka but he's past the 20k mark and has been for awhile. And I don't want to think of Banco Billy's 200+k gamer score.

Will there be any hope for me to reach my goal? I hope so. I'm a competitive person so as long as I have friends with a higher score than me I'll keep trying and playing games. Maybe by the time I'm 80 years old I can reach the gamer score Banco Billy has today. Until then I'll just be happy trying to get to past 20,000.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Poll Results: What upcoming game are you most excited about?

So here's the results from my latest poll:

What upcoming game are you most excited about?

Gears of War 3 = 4 votes
Modern Warfare 3 = 1 vote
Mass Effect 3 = 1 vote
Elder's Scroll: Skyrim = 3 votes
Batman: Arkham City = 1 vote

I'm both surprised and not surprised by the voting. I'm not surprised that Skyrim got a bunch of votes. I am surprised that MW3 and ME3 didn't get more votes. And I'm surprised that GoW3 got as many votes as it did. Why? I'll tell you.

I have friends that live (and die) for Modern Warfare 2. They won't play anything else besides that. I would have thought the new game would have gotten more votes.

I also know how much critics and fans liked the Batman: Arkham Asylum game and that there's great anticipation for the new one. Several of my friends talk about looking forward to that game so why didn't they vote for it?

I guess I could say the same for Mass Effect. I have friends that have played both previous games several times just to see how changing one thing can impact the game. They can't wait to get in and finish the story and see how their character choices pan out after three games.

As for Gears? Well, I love the game and I can't wait to finish the story. I have several friends (usually the Call of Duty lovers) that have said they're not interested in getting the next Gears. I find that hard to believe, especially with how the voting turned out here. Granted, not all my friends are voting in my poll.

I'm excited if they do get Gears and I look forward to playing with them. The first two Gears games are a couple of the few games I've finished the story on. Since I don't finish games often you might guess that I can't wait for the game to come out. So that's why I voted for it. Of course I will be getting all of those games on the list, I'm just looking forward to the new Gears most of all. I think I'm even going to take some time off work just so I can play the story mode during the day so I can play the multiplayer mode at night.

Now, as for the games NOT on the list . . .

Battlefield 3:
I have several friends who have this game but I only know of one that is really looking forward to this game. While I'd like to play it, it doesn't rank that high up on my "looking forward to" list. Since I know it would only get one vote (if Genghis would ever vote in my poll) I didn't include it.

Halo 4:
I'm a sucker for series. I have all the Halo games (except Halo Wars) and I'll probably get this one too even thought I haven't finished the first one. I just don't like the idea of having the story unfinished. As far as looking forward to it . . . not really. Besides it doesn't come out until next year so I've got time to wait.

BioShock: Infinite:
This is a game that I'm REALLY looking forward to, but it doesn't come out until next year so that is why it wasn't on the list. I read online that this game swept four of the most sought after awards at E3 this year. I've been intrigued ever since I saw the first teaser for it. I can't wait to play it. Maybe my next poll "upcoming" poll will have it, but then again you already know how I'd vote.

Saints Row the Third:
I've heard some good things about this game, but since I've never played the first two and I really don't have any interest in this one, it wasn't on my poll. Sorry Zen (I think you were the one who mentioned it).

So now you all know what games I'll be buying this holiday season . . . and which one I'll most likely be playing. What games are on your wish list and ones that you're looking forward to? Which ones will you pre-order vs. just getting whenever? Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2 down 10 to go

I finally realized that in my quest to finish 12 games in 12 month that I've actually finished 2 games already.

The first game was Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale. I played it in co-op with Sneaka and Genghis. That was fun. It was nice to have someone else drive and yet still enjoy a hack and slash game. And if you put those two guys together you get one hell of a fun night. They're like peanut butter and jelly, cookies and cream or whipped cream and a hooker. Now, if I can only figure out which one is the whipped cream.


The other game I recently finished is Puzzle Quest 2. FINALLY!!!!!!!! I decided to start that game up when I wasn't really in the mood to play anything at all. I had just walked into a room and there were three battles I had to go through just to get to the door on the other side. Ugh. This is what I hate the most in this game.

When I finally made it through all the battles and stepped into the next room it turns out that it was the final boss. If I had known that I was that close to the end the last time I played it months ago I would have stuck around to finish it.

The final boss was actually two separate battles. The first battle wasn't hard at all. The second battle was a little more difficult but I prevailed (I wish I could say that about the Yeti). Once the battle was over I heard a bleep and an achievement popped up. When I checked it out it was for finishing the game. Kind of anti-climatic since I haven't played for so long I couldn't remember the story at all. At least the game is done and I can cross it off my list, although I still have achievements to get in that game.

Finishing Puzzle Quest 2 was what reminded me that I had previously finished Daggerdale with friends. And that reminded me about my 12 games in 12 months goal. And that reminded me that I was getting close to finishing Mass Effect (I just stole the Normandy if you're familiar with the story). So it's very likely that in a couple of days I can say I've finished 3 games now instead of 2.

Once I finish Mass Effect I'll be looking for another "big" game to play and finish. I'm still undecided at this point because nothing out there is really grabbing my attention. I'm still taking suggestions and I would gladly take any help I can find in games too.

Although I probably won't finish 12 games in 12 months I am working on some games and that should make my friends happy . . . even if those games are older ones. Who knows, maybe I'll take one of these newer games that are coming out this year and sit down and focus on that game. Maybe I could finish it before my friends do. Wishful thinking I know, but I've got 10 more games to plow through so I can dream, can't I?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NEW POLL! What upcoming game are you most excited about?

I know, it's been a long time, but I've got a new poll up. You have until July 8th to vote so make it count. Here it is:

What upcoming game are you most excited about?

Gears of War 3
Modern Warfare 3
Mass Effect 3
Elder's Scroll: Skyrim
the new Batman game

Happy voting!

Oh, and I added a search box to my blog if you want to try that out. Let me know what you think.

Everybody likes surprises right?

I got the surprise of my online life last night. Evil Ric jumped online BUT DIDN'T PUT IN CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS. I was so shocked to see that, instead of jumping right into the game all his friends were playing, he put something else in. What game was that, you ask? LA Noir.

Now don't get me wrong. I have nothing against that game. Several of my friends have it and have been playing it. It's a game that's piqued my interest from time to time. It's just that when I think of Evil Ric I think of him playing Black Ops along with Tactical and Sand Dog. The three of those guys are almost synonymous with the game.

But I really shouldn't be too surprised to see Evil playing something else. After all the ribbing I get for not finishing games I, in turn, give some ribbing back to friends that only play one game. Evil's one of them. I've teased him many times that Black Ops is the only game he plays. Yes, he tried to tell me he plays Batman: Arkham Asylum but it doesn't show up on his recent played games so I don't believe him. And believe me, I look.

I guess I should be glad Evil's branching out into new frontiers of gameplay. I really wished he'd play some games I've recommended to him because I think he'll like them. He should trust me that I won't recommend something like Princess Barbie's Shoe Shopping Spectacular. That's one game he might want to play "offline" unless he's man enough to stand the ribbing he'll get from our friends.

While I'm glad Evil jumped in and played with us AND that he's playing new games I just wasn't ready for the surprise of seeing him play something else. After all there are good surprises and bad surprises. "Honey, I'm pregnant" is a good surprise if it comes from your wife (and you two have been having sex) but bad if it comes from your mistress (whether or not you two have been having sex). A good surprise is having your friends play new games. And everybody likes a good surprise now and then, don't they?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Time flies when you're having fun

I hadn't realized that it's been THAT long since I last posted. Sorry guys. Since you all see me almost every night you know that I've been playing. Here are a couple of items of note since the last post (but not all memory isn't that good).

1) A new friend asked once why my usual group of guys weren't in a clan. We all laughed and a few disparaging comments about clans were said. The truth is, we don't have to change our names or make funny little clan tags to play with each other. I'm not going to pay 800 Microsoft points to change my name to "El Pengwenn" or whatever just so total strangers see I'm friends with a group of people. Our friendship is real and goes beyond names. Besides, if I get pissy and don't want to be friends with some of them anymore does that mean I'll have to change my name back? They could kick me out of the clan but I'd still have my name so what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Nothing.

2) This same new friend asked if I was excited for Gears of War 3 to come because I can finally play as a girl. Um, if I had to wait to play a game until they came up with a female character there would be a lot of games I wouldn't be playing, but I am. It doesn't really matter to me if the character I'm playing is male or female. I chose a female character in Mass Effect as a little bit of defiance because all the promo for the game has Shepard as a male. I don't mind playing as a male character. I'll play whatever character suits my style of game (or pisses me off the least). And as for Anya. I played with her the required number of times to unlock something but then I switched. I found her grunting, groaning and other vocal outburst annoying. If I were a guy I'd probably feel otherwise. But I think that's what they had in mind when they designed her.

3) I have been making a conscious effort to play Mass Effect and finish the game. I've also been working on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It would be nice to finish some games and to get my friends off my back about it. Also, I won't have to keep yelling at them for giving away spoilers for games I haven't finished yet. Although they think the statute of limitations has run out on these older games. I disagree.

4) Not currently game related, but I got a home theater system for working at my present company for 15 years. I got to pick out a prize and that's what I picked. I think I want to get a new TV before I hook everything up so that might be awhile. But once I do, I can't wait to play Bioshock and Dead Space with surround sound. That's just to creep me out. I love it.

5) I have finished a game recently. Sneaka, Genghis and I played and finished Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale the other day. It's a hack and slash arcade game on Xbox Live. It was a blast. It's also a 4 player co-op game so we're playing it again with MadMax. It's a fun game and that's what friends do.

6) Also not really game related but effecting my game play is that I've had a major rejection episode with my corneal transplant. It was not fun. I'm still dealing with the fall out of that because my vision is not as good as it was before. I guess I need to get back to the eye doctor and update my contact prescriptions. Yeah me. I've been living and dealing with all these issues for 6 years now and I'm tired of it. Pain, discomfort and poor vision just seem to be my existence for these last 6 years. But some good news is my doctor took me off some medication because he said I didn't need it anymore. Yeah! Some of the side effects were that it made my eye red and caused bruising on my eye lids (top and bottom). I always looked like I've been punched in the eye.

7) I've had some professional and personally disappointments recently. Both have effective my gameplay. Some nights I'm just not into it. I'm sure to have more in the future. Please don't take it personal.

8) I've had some good moments personally (professionally is still pending) that have been wonderful. While sometimes those moments make me want to get online and play games with my friends they can also make me want to stay off-line and just soak all the goodness and happiness in. Again, don't take it personal if I don't show up to play. I'm just enjoying life.

9) I've had some major internet issues. I finally had to buy a new modem after about 12-13 years. It was an unexpected expense (I got the best I could afford) so I was mad. But I guess I can't complain with how long my previous one lasted. There's been a few hiccups getting it set up and running properly but I think we've got that all figured out. Thanks dain.

10) Lastly, I had a wonderful, yet horrible, night last night. My sister and one of my nieces were in town this weekend for a softball tournament. I went to my parent's house yesterday for dinner and to visit with them. After a great game of Scum (I was only scum once) I went home about 10pm. When I got home all my lights were off. Turns out the power was out for a lot of the houses on my street. I had to call my parents to see if they could bring a flashlight over because it was so dark I couldn't find mine (I recently moved where I kept it and couldn't remember). The horrible part was that it had been 106 degrees yesterday and now I didn't have any AC. Once my dad left I put my swimming suit on and got in my pool (for the first time this year). It was a little cool but it felt nice. I stayed in there as long as I could and then got out. I piled up a couple of towels on the couch and laid down to go to bed while I was still dripping wet. It was all I could do to stay cool. About 12:30 the power came back on and my swimming suit was mostly dry. I got up, changed, reset my alarm clock and went to bed. About 4am the power went out again. And again at 5:15. Both times I reset my clock and tried to go back to sleep. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep last night. At least everything is on this morning. And at least it wasn't 115 degrees instead. I'm so not ready for the summer heat.

Well, those are the highlights . . . and a couple of lowlights too. I'll try to get back into the flow of regular updates. Feel free to nag me for new posts every now and then. But only if you're interested. And I hope you are. But you should remember that times flies when you're having fun. And I always having fun playing online.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hook, Line and Sinker

Once again my Xbox 360 is having problems reading game disks. I have to wonder if it's another "RRoD" faulty construction or too much dog hair getting in the machine. With this last one I've been taking precautions with the dog hair. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be working.

On lunch today I decided I really needed to smash some heads in and tried to get my 360 to play something . . . anything. Unfortunately it didn't matter what disk I put in the drive it wasn't going to play it. I haven't been on my 360 in awhile because of this problem and now when I need it, my system fails me.

I was going to just turn everything off and find something else to do for the few minutes I had left. But I was mad . . . and bound and determined to play on my 360. So I pulled up my Arcade games and started Puzzle Quest 2. (The arcade games now seem to be the only thing I can play on this machine any more.)

I've been getting really pissed off with Puzzle Quest 2 because every room I go into has 2-3 enemies that I've got to face just for me to get to the door on the other side of the room. At which point when I go through the door I'll need to battle 3-4 more enemies to get to yet another door. It's getting tedious and boring whereas I found the first one fun and exciting.

I only had time for a couple of battles (enough to get me into the next room) and then I'd have to go back to work. During the last battle when I was even more tired and grumpy with the game and my system then when I started, a miracle happened.

I got an achievement.

I got the OMGHAX for 20pts for matching 8 gems in a row on any battle mode. I've tried for this achievement several times and had given up with ever getting it legitimately. There are several other achievements that I know I'll have to boost or coerce a friend into helping me out so I'm not really expecting to get them. Besides getting an achievement for completing the game I figured I was maxed out on achievements for that game. Then I heard that magical little bleep and the pop up showed on my screen.


Just when I was ready to throw in the towel with Microsoft and Xbox gaming in general I had to go and get an achievement that I've worked hard for but never gotten. Until now. Dangle that carrot in front of my face and there's just enough there that coming back and playing something else now excites me again.

So I did it again. Get so pissed off with Microsoft and their crappy machines and threaten to leave, then get one small reward for "good behavior" and I'm back to wanting to play the games. I fall for this pattern every time. Hook. Line. And Sinker. Will the cycle ever end? Will I find another way to play online with my friends without all the headache and hassle that Microsoft creates? And if not, do I get a new system with Kinect so I'll have something else from Microsoft that will break down?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Poll Results - Are you getting Bulletstorm?

So here are the latest poll results:

Are you getting Bulletstorm?

Yes, it's going to be a great game = 1 vote
Yes, but only for the Gears 3 beta = 0 votes
Maybe, I'm thinking about it = 0 votes
No way = 4 votes

Okay, I admit I forgot to vote in my own poll. But then again I haven't really made up my mind. Which means I probably would have voted for "maybe". Here's my reasoning for you:

I would get it if I thought it would be a great game. It might be a good game but right now my budget is restricted to great games (and old favorites). I played the demo and I wasn't blown away with it being a 'great' game. For that I'll wait and see after it's come out and people have played it awhile. Maybe it will be a great game. Time will tell.

I did play the demo and while I didn't think it bad I just couldn't get the handle of some of the stuff the game expected me to do. You're expected to kill people with great flourishes and intricate moves. The problem for me is that when I see an enemy I think "shoot first, play with the body later". Bulletstorm seems to be the opposite. They want you to play with the body of your enemy before they actually die. Kick them into a hazard. Throw them up in the air. Stomp on them to stun them. And THEN kill them. I don't want to be creative with my kills. I just want to kill. The problem is you get more points if you do it creatively. The same old boring "aim, fire, kill" won't cut it in this game.

Despite all of that I was/am still thinking about getting the game. Why? Because of the Gears of War 3 beta. Now that is one game that I can't wait for. It should be really interesting how the story ends and whether gamers like the new server based online play instead of hosting. But all that good stuff is also a reason why I don't want to get the game.

I don't want to get the game and play so much of the beta that by the time the whole game comes out I'm partially burned out on the game already. What might be new and exciting for some of my friends might be old hat to me. Now where's the fun in that? It would be like going to the store and picking out your Christmas gifts yourself. They still get wrapped up and placed under the tree but you already know what they are. I would prefer to be surprised and as excited as my friends when Gears 3 comes out.

But on the other hand I really want all the bugs and things fixed so that when I do get online things will play smoothly. So someone has to play the beta and test things out. It will be really interesting to see how the online play changes with servers. Will this make it easier for Weasell to play with the rest of us? I certainly hope so. As much as you hate when the someone on the other team gets host we always enjoyed it when we got it. With a server based game play hopefully that will level the playing field for everyone.

Right now, I'm leaning to NOT get the game. Like I said I've got money set aside for other games that I know I will play. With Bulletstorm it's just a maybe. I'm sure I've got several friends that will get the game for the beta and I hope they test the hell out of it for me. As much as I want the best game possible, I want the best game possible when it was meant to be. And that seems to be this fall. I can't wait to relive unless nights of unless fun with my friends like the old days. If that happens than the wait will be worth it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

12 Games in 12 Months

So my friends tease me and give me a hard time because I can't seem to finish games that I start . . . at least not in a reasonable time frame. And although I've decided not to set specific New Year Resolutions for myself (they always lead to disappointment) I couldn't get the idea of "12 games in 12 months" out of my head.

What that idea is, is for me to finish the story lines of 12 games within a 12 month period. That doesn't mean I get all the achievements for those games that have them, but that I actually get to the end credits of the story so I can now talk about it with my friends. By saying "12 games in 12 months" I'm also giving myself a whole year to work on all games. I'm not limiting myself to 1 game a month. If the end of February comes along and I'm not close to finishing a game I don't want to get down on myself.

I got this idea when I finally finished the story in Gears of War 2 in December. I was at the start of Chapter 5 when my stuff was stolen so I had to spend some time retracing my steps before I could get to things I hadn't seen yet. The good news was this allowed me to work on several achievements that I hadn't gotten before. The bad news was by the time I finished the game and wanted to talk about it my friends couldn't remember what exactly had happened when in the story any more.

I plan on finishing games over several consoles and hand-helds. I keep throwing around a list every week or so but I'll let fate and my current mood decide which games I'll work on at the moment.

One game that I know I want to finish is Puzzle Quest 2. I think I'm getting very close too. I hope so any way. I love playing this game but I get bored of the battles rather quickly. After I've won my third battle I just want to play something else. It doesn't help that 3 battles might only get me to the other side of the room and not very far in the story. I've played that game so much that I've dreamed of it at night and heard that little beep that indicates your turn everywhere. I can't wait to finish the game.

Some other games I'm considering are:

Eternal Sonata
Final Fantasy Tactics (for PSP)
Ratchet and Clank
Dark Cloud
Lost Odyssey

Obviously I'm going to need more games and those games listed might not even be ones I try to finish either. It's just a list of the games I'm interested in playing right now. I could throw in the story modes for some of those online shooters I'm always playing. I hear those stories are kind of short. I could throw in a long game like Fallout 3, Blue Dragon or Borderlands and work on it over the entire 12 months.

I guess that really is only 11 months now because I got this idea in January and decided to go for it then. Yes, I know I'm a little behind in posting about it. I just hope I'm not behind in finishing games and have 10 or so to finish once December rolls around. If you have any suggestions for those "must play" games that you think I should play, let me know. I make no promises but if I do finish them we'll have one more thing to talk about.

New Poll - Are you getting Bulletstorm?

Here's my latest poll:

Are you getting Bulletstorm?

Yes, it's going to be a great game
Yes, but only for the Gears of War 3 beta
Maybe, I'm thinking about it
No way!

You have one week to vote (unless I decide to extend the deadline). I'm very interested in how you all vote. And feel free to put more extensive reasonings as to why you voted the way you did the comments. I like comments. No, I really do.

Poll Results - What do you want for Xmas?

Yes, I know it's now February, but better late than never right?

What do you want most for Christmas?

the latest game = 1 vote
any game = 0 votes
a job = 3 votes
world peace = 0
a date with Pengwenn = 2 votes

(Okay, maybe the "date with Pengwenn" can work in February.)

I didn't vote in this poll. I already have a job (although if I had included an option for a better job I would have voted for that). I already budgeted for all the newest games that I was interested in (although I haven't played many of them because they're sequels). I don't know that collectively as humans we would know what to do with world peace (other than immediately go to war over who brought the world peace or how it should be handled). As for 'a date with Pengwenn' I'm alone with myself all the time and frankly I could use a change.

For those of you who voted for date with me did you think you were going to win the lottery or am I more along the lines of a consolation prize? When I think of which one of you votes for this option I wonder if I'm right. I won't "out" you here, just in case I'm wrong but you can always send me a private message and maybe we can work something out. Heaven knows I should probably get out of the house more often . . . and I don't think hockey games with my brother count.

For those of you looking for work I've got a ton of weeds that need to be pulled, mowed down or just napalmed out of existence. I'd be happy to have you come over and take care of them for me. I probably can't pay you in money, but I can pay you in game time. How about 1 hour pulling weeds = 1 hour of game time with any game I own. I figure if you don't have a job you might not have the money to own or play some of the latest games. And once you're here I'm sure I've got other tasks I might need help with. It think it's a win-win situation. I get some of those hideous tasks completed that I hate to do and you get some play time with some great games. Send me a message if you're interested.

Not again

So in an effort to recapture some of that excitement of playing video games I decided to dust off my PS2 and play some old school games. I had good intentions, but things didn't turn out so good in the end.

First I had to find all the cords and equipment I would need to play on my PS2. It's amazing how the Dualshock 2 controller feels so foreign in my hands when it use to feel so comfortable. After I got everything hooked up I put in my first disk.

I decided to start with a great game that I spent more than a hundred hours playing and even more watching dain play as well. That was Final Fantasy X. It's one of the few games that I've finished yet I still go back and play it every now and then. I was hoping this would be one of those times. Unfortunately my PS2 said it couldn't read the disk.

After a few failed attempts I tried to put in another game. This time I picked up Dark Cloud. I was so close to the end the last time I had that game that I'm eager to get there again. It's one of the few games that I don't mind replaying all the earlier stuff to get back to where I was. Thankfully that game worked and I spent a couple of hours fighting my way through the dungeon levels and rebuilding Narrune.

Unfortunately I got a little cocky while battling an enemy and I thought I would defeat them before my weapon broke with still plenty of abs left to repair it, but I somehow miscalculated and my weapon broke and is now lost forever. It was a mighty powerful weapon. Let us bow our heads in silence for the lost of my shiny, strong sword.

And we're back.

After awhile I decided that I wanted to play something else. I played a little Final Fantasy IX but thought I should really be working on Final Fantasy VII since that is the game dain and I are suppose to be playing. I put disk one in for Final Fantasy VII but that game wouldn't load either. At this point on Saturday I turned everything off and went to my parent's house of dinner and to watch the hockey game.

On Sunday I wanted to try my PS2 again. Final Fantasy X still wouldn't work. Final Fantasy IX wouldn't work either. And now Dark Cloud wouldn't load up. I finally got a game to work. That was Muppet's Party Cruise but when it started to load the first screen of the game after I logged in it froze. When I tried to reset the PS2 it wouldn't read the disk again.

While on the phone talking to dain I finally found a game my PS2 would play. Balder's Gate Dark Alliance. I played that for awhile and found that I had to backtrack through a lot of areas that I had already been. Why I was back at the Inn I can't remember. At least the game worked.

The game I really wanted to play was Final Fantasy IX. Actually I really just wanted to play Tetra Master the mini game that you can play with villagers. I pulled a disk out of my case and put it in my machine. Much to my surprise the game loaded up. Unfortunately I had put in disk 3 instead of disk 1. After 4 or 5 failed attempts to get my machine to read the first disk it finally did and I spent a couple of hours fighting my way through an open field and an ice cave before I finally got a village. By then I was too tired to keep playing so I turned everything off for the night.

I had to send my Xbox 360 back three times in one year because it started to fail at reading disks. Now I'm having the same problem with my PS2. It's only a year old and hardly been played at all. And it's been stored in a nice dry dust free environment when not in use. Why is this machine having the same problem as my 360? And most importantly WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME AGAIN?

All I want is a nice quiet evening playing a game with a great story, engaging characters and fun game mechanics. I don't need life-like graphics and nonstop action to make me happy. For someone who's use to the level of realism in current generation consoles it was a shock to go back to the spiky hair, Popeye-like biceps of the characters of FFVII and even FFIX. We've come a long way since then in graphics and power and such. Why can't we have also come a long way in making consoles that actually read the disk that they're suppose to?

It wasn't like I was sticking an Xbox game in my PS2. Those games I tried were meant to played on that system. Maybe it's not the console but the disks themselves. It's possible. It they were my original games I know they would work. I take great care with my game disks. They're the closest I'll probably get to having kids so they get all of my love and attention. Unfortunately when I had to replace all of my games I had to take what I could find on some of them. Not everyone loves their games or takes care of them as much as I do. Either way I miss playing MY games on MY machines. I'm getting deja vu all over again and I don't like it. Please no more 'disk read errors'. Not now. Not again.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I am not a coward, but I know who is

I got into an argument with Pogue the other night about what a coward is. He kept calling the guys on the other team cowards because they hid inside doorways and kept picking him off when he ran through. He got fed up and "pulled a Pogue". Which means me quit the match and expected this team mates to back out and pick him up again.

We've done that several times for various friends but when your team backs out to pick you up again don't sit there and say you need five minutes because you went off and decided to do something else for awhile. I'm not going to sit there and wait for you every again.

Which got me thinking. Who's the real coward here? The guys on the other team didn't run from the fight with their tail between their legs because it wasn't going like they wanted to. If the other team is camping out a room here's a tip: THROW GRENADES IN THERE. Make the team run around trying to stay alive before you run in there and expect to wipe them all out with just your killer smile. Throw gas, smoke, flash or grenades and see if they're still sitting in the same spot when you go it. Or better yet. DON'T KEEP GOING IN THE ROOM!

Yes, I hate campers too, but the only one I saw being a coward was Pogue. He was the one who quit the match. He was the one who ran from the fight. He was the one who couldn't take it like a man. I can. I usually stay around when I'm getting slaughtered. I'm use to it. I guess that makes me more of a man than Pogue.

I will admit to "pulling a Pogue" two or three times over the entire release of Black Ops. Pogue, on the other hand, will do it two or three times a night. When I do it's more what's going on with me personally than with what's going on in the game. I could have had a terrible day, my eyes could be tired and getting killed over and over again it just too much for me to take.

If I get slaughtered I shrug it off as part of the game. We've had good nights where we've creamed the opposing sides in all matches and nights where we can't get anything going. I don't expect to be king of the world every night....or every match either. I take what comes and roll with it. Unfortunately there are some players who have to be the top scorer in a match, get the most kills, have a positive kill/death ratio, or be on the winning team every time or they won't finish the match. Who cares! It's just a game.

I remember when my friends didn't take those statistics seriously. Partly because I think in some games those numbers where known. Now that kill/death ratios, win/loss rations, number of kills and the number of assists are recorded and available for anyone in the match to see they seem to think those numbers are more important than playing a good game with friends and having fun like the old days. I miss those days.

I don't mind backing out of a room when things keep going bad and trying to find a new one. But I don't want to have to do that after every match. And I don't want to have to wait around while cowards in my party decide to go redecorate their living rooms, clean their bathrooms, or just flip over to watch something on TV while they make us wait on them. After all, they were the cowardly ones that left the match in the first place. They should wait to get back in until the rest of us decide we want to back out. If I'm hosting the room they will. Be warned: I am not a coward, but I know who is.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Grinding away

There is one key to success in RPG type games. I know. I play a lot of them. It's grinding. If you play RPG games you'll agree with me.

Grinding is where you run around in one area just to start battles and gain experience points, items, or leveling up your characters abilities. The stronger the character the easier the battles. At some point in the story you'll sometimes find yourself in an area where the enemies are much stronger than you so grinding becomes required to get through some areas of games.

The experienced RPG player knows this so they start grinding early. There's nothing like battling low level opponents early on in the game to get your character levels higher than where they should be right off the bat. If you go to a new area with level 10 enemies are you've already gotten your characters up to a level 15 it makes things so much easier.

Unfortunately the downside to grinding is that battles can get very tedious and monotonous. It becomes the same things over and over again. And pretty soon those few experience points you get out of every battle aren't going to do much to get your character to the next level.

The RPG that I've been playing recently is Blue Dragon. I love this game . . . or at least as far as I previously got in the game. But I didn't love it at first. I found the battles tough and costly for the first couple of areas. That was because I wasn't grinding. Once I decided to grind away a couple of level increases the battles got much easier and that was when I started to get into the story . . . and when my stuff got robbed.

I've been looking for something to play by myself since a lot of my friends have gone missing on Xbox Live (or at least sporadically missing). I've tried Mass Effect but my system seems to have problems with that game by freezing up and doing weird things. So I pulled out Blue Dragon again (only because of an alphabetical order of my games).

Because I know how the game plays and what I need to do I've been able to level up almost twice as high as where I was at before. I've learned several more Dragon skills than I knew before and the large amount of gold I've collected from those battles has let me equip my characters to the max for what is available this early in the game. I've played for about 5 and 1/2 hours and I bet 2 1/2 to 3 hours of that has been grinding. And it's starting to wear on me.

I love the game but there's just so many times you can battle cute little butterflies and jumping crickets before you say "enough is enough". I want to move on with the story. I want to know what happens next. When grinding gets too tedious and I get bored that seems to be when I put the game aside and play something else. But if I want to progress the story why do I put the game aside?

Because I'm usually grinding in a place that's as far away from where I need to go as I can possible get. In order to progress the story I've got to traverse a lot of ground which means getting into a lot of battles; which means boredom. I got so fed up with trying to get back to the story line in Lost Odyssey that I picked "flee" from the command options every time, even if I knew I could beat the enemy rather easily. It just wasn't worth the effort for me.

You can't grind in shooters, racers or platform games. RPGs seem to have an exclusive market on that particular gaming ritual. RPGs are also my first love of video games (platformers a close second, followed by hack-n-slash type games, but more on that in another post). Because I love RPGs I do send a lot of time grinding. Now Blue Dragon is a 3-disk game so I don't think it will be a game I finish this year (considering my gaming habits), but I hope to get farther a long in the game than where I was before. And for right now that means I still have a ways to go in the game to get there. Maybe things will go easier now that I've been grinding more at the beginning. Or maybe I'll pull out another game and start playing.

Sometimes you grind for fun. Sometimes the grinding grinds you down to nothing. Only time (and more grinding) will tell.